In particular, of the 小法師 part.

I this article, we have 小法師 as こぼうし in the title, which makes sense to me given the kanji. However, upon looking up 起き上がり小法師, I find the reading おきあがりこぼし(without the う) (found in multiple dictionaries and it's the first suggested reading on Wikipedia).

Why is there this discrepancy?

Presumably it's just a change in sound from ぼうし to ぼし, but are there many words where a long vowel is shortened in this way?

  • 1
    I do not know if @silvermaple’s edit captures the original intent. The original question did not contain “Why is there this discrepancy?” part at all. Feb 17, 2012 at 23:23
  • @TsuyoshiIto: Oh, you could be right. What I thought he was trying to ask waswhy he found it somewhere with the う and somewhere without it. I could be wrong, I couldn't say 100%... Feb 18, 2012 at 3:54
  • The one in the title is the name of the sweet so I understand that they've chosen a more standard reading of ~法師 for that part, and that the reading for 起き上がり小法師 is probably what it is for historical reasons. The shortening of a vowel seemed unusual to me, though, so I wanted to know if there was a reason for this particular change (e.g. specific to the time period or area of Japan where the name originated) or if there were some cases where this sort of sound change tends to happen (like with rendaku).
    – nkjt
    Feb 18, 2012 at 13:45
  • By “the one in the title,” do you mean 小法師 or 起き上がり小法師? The title “Reading of 起き上がり小法師” only mentions the latter, but it is not the name of the sweet. Feb 19, 2012 at 13:38

1 Answer 1


As you surmised, it is just an sound change: the long vowel shortened. This is made clear by recorded early citations. Earlier citations for okiagari kobōshi--with the long vowel--may be found from mid-Muromachi texts. (For example "Jippon Ōgi" 十本扇.) Early citations for okiagari koboshi--with the short vowel--may be found from early Edo period. (For example "Kyōgonki" 狂言記.)

The word kobōshi also exists. Early citations from the 10th century. Note that there does not seem to be a corresponding *koboshi, though. That may give a hint as to why okiagari koboshi came about: to distinguish this self-righting dharma doll from "a young monk" (kobōshi). But that is only a guess.

In modern Japanese, the version with the short vowel is most common. That is why you will likely find in regular dictionaries.

For the record, you may also find the following expressions as well: okikaeri kobōshi and okiyagari / okyagari koboshi, all with the same meaning.

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